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I remember the first time I set foot in a gym – I was 13 and planned on getting “bigger, stronger and fitter” so that I didn’t get dropped from the England karate squad. In a PE lesson our teacher had decided that going outside when it was raining wasn’t a good idea (weather fairies!) so we had a choice of playing badminton or going to the gym. I decided on the gym.
When I wandered in I saw the bunch of gym regulars in my year gathered around the bench press machine and thought, “Great, these guys can show me how it’s done!”
I asked one of the guys how to use it and if I could jump in. I proceeded to put the weight pin up reducing the weight thinking these guys can’t be that strong and with my spaghetti arms lifted the weight shakily off the safety pins then lowered the weight 4 inches before realising if I went any lower my arm was about to fall off!
So day one wasn’t that successful!
After making that mistake and a complete fool of myself I decided to ask the fitness guy at karate for a helping hand as to what to do. His nickname was “Guns” so he knew his stuff! Guns being a friend/ fitness trainer didn’t just teach me the techniques of certain exercises, how to programme them together and so forth, he also taught me the unwritten laws and etiquette of the gym, which is what I’m going to try and explain in this blog.
So here are a few gym don’ts to get us started. Don’t worry if you’ve done these before, 90% of people that go to a gym probably have too. I know I have.
1) NO CURLING IN THE SQUAT RACK – the squat rack or power rack was made specifically for squats, overhead presses and other compound and often heavy barbell movements, not bicep curls. A few weeks ago when I was on my course in London a friend and I went and trained in a gym and I observed a guy standing in the middle of a power rack with two dumbbells doing bicep curls and then taking selfies in the mirror. Yes he took one of four busy squat racks so that he could stand inside the cage and watch himself curl his wrist to his shoulder and stopped others from squatting! There’s actually a curl rack and specific area for these types of movements with an extremely long mirror where they can be done.
So ‘Gym Rule 1’, please don’t stop others from squatting to stand in the middle of the rack and do bicep curls. Those safety pins are valuable.
2) Re rack your weights and tidy up after yourself – there’s nothing worse than wandering over to an empty piece of equipment and feeling ready to get started and seeing that someone’s left 100kg of plates on there or decided the dumbbells looked a lot better spread out all over the floor. Gyms actually have racks and plate tidies with specific places for certain sized weights so it’s easier to put them back and take them off again. And leaving the dumbbells in an unorganised pile on the floor isn’t abstract art, it’s annoying!
So ‘Gym Rule 2’, put the weights back where you found them!
3) Be courteous to other members – don’t hog equipment, sit on the phone, interrupt people mid set and make things messy! Also if someone isn’t comfortable talking about something, don’t then carry on asking them! And just be friendly.
So that’s just a few gym don’ts. Now I’m going to show you certain personalities you will see at every leisure club and gym going, and are just one of the reasons you should get a Personal Trainer.
Half Squat Harry
Wanted for
– Not squatting to at least parallel! Letting his knees knock in, his heels come up and leaning forwards.
Last seen
– Swinging under the barbell in the squat rack grunting and chanting to himself
Onlookers were said to be afraid as Mr Shaky Knees re racked the bar and continued to think he had just squatted the world!
Known associates: everyone that skips leg day and thinks that this guy in the squat rack is a hero
Cheat Curl Charlie
Wanted for
– Falsifying strength reports
– Illegal use of squat rack
– Trespassing on mirror property
Last seen
– In a heated altercation with uninterested gym goers
– Suspect is unARMed and certainly not dangerous
Known associates: NONE!
Bad Bench Billy
Wanted for
– Not lowering all the way to chest and loitering around the bench for a whole hour!
Last seen
– Stacking on plates with no clips without a spotter. Suspect then proceeded to bend elbows approximately 30 degrees lowering the bar merely an inch before slamming the weight back in the rack.
– The suspect sat up pretending he nailed it… reports confirmed he did not nail it!
So therse are a few things NOT to do at a gym that I learnt when I first started out.
Don’t be worried if one of them has been you in the past; I know I’m guilty of a few. One last thing that my trusty old friend “Guns” taught me was, “You can be half of a lot of things, but do NOT be a half repper!”
If any of you have struggled within a gym environment, you are not alone. If you would like the help from one of our expert coaches at PPT then please contact us on 01444 484129 or follow this link!

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